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Nigerian Union Issues Ultimatum on Minimum Wage Talks


Nigeria's main labor union, the Nigerian Labor Congress, wants the government to begin talks about a new minimum wage within 21 days or face the prospect of nationwide protests. The threat comes at a particularly difficult time for the struggling Nigerian economy.

The union's decision-making body resolved at a meeting in Abuja that Nigerian workers need to be compensated for the rising cost of living. It said the government has not responded to a request made three months ago for a new monthly minimum wage.

Nigerian Labor Congress Secretary General George Odah told VOA the union is determined to put as much pressure on the government to begin discussions without delay.

"The national executive council looked at the fact that we have not made progress in respect to our wage demand and subsequently asked that we put government on notice that if after 21 days substantial progress is not made then we have to take concrete actions," Odah said. "We are going to put additional pressure on government to see that they take seriously our request for a new wage."

The minimum wage in Nigeria was last increased eight years ago. But wage negotiations are expected to be very tough in the face of declining national revenue and the continuing crash of the national currency against foreign currencies. The naira has dropped more than 20 percent against the dollar since early December.

Africa's most populous nation relies heavily on oil and gas, which according to the World Bank accounts for more than 90 percent of export earnings and 85 percent of government revenues.

Declining global oil prices have depleted the external reserves of sub-Saharan Africa's second-biggest economy.

Thousands of Nigerians have already lost their jobs in recent months, and the government warns there could be further layoffs if unions ask for more money.

The minimum wage is currently $40 a month in Nigeria. The Nigeria Labor Congress is asking for $350 a month.

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